Argentine Beekeepers' Magazine



December 27th, 2023

Versión en Castellano

(ESPACIO APICOLA, December 27th, 2023) The European Food Safety Agency EFSA promotes the production of a computational model of a beehive for the pesticides risk assessment. Today, in its third version, ApisRAM has already described the environmental scenarios with which it will interact in order to carry out, in the near future, the pesticide risk assessment in all corners of the European Union.

It is expected that this tool will already be operational and will be useful by 2025, when the Apimondia Congress is also planned in Copenhagen. Among other objectives, this model is focused on pollinators care, responding in part to that motto of Apimondia Montpelier 2009 "the bee as sentinel of the environment".

"ApisRAM was designed by an EFSA working group in 2016, as part of the EFSA MUST-B project which is developing a framework for the implementation of a holistic and integrated environmental risk assessment of multiple stressors in bees". The formal model was subcontracted by EFSA, developed by Aarhus University and published in 2022" (EFSA Technical Report 2023).

"The ApisRAM model is an agent-based colony model for honey bees in which each bee is modelled as an individual agent. The behaviour of the colony emerges from the decisions and actions taken by individuals in the colony and the interactions between agents. The bees interact with, and react to, both other bees and the resources in the colony, the hive's physical and chemical properties, and the environment outside the colony." This is how Xiaodong Duan, David Wallis and Christopher John Topping, from the Department of Ecosciences at Aarhus University in Denmark, begin to describe how this tool works. (ApisRAM Formal Model Description - Xiadong Duan et al., February 2022).

"This is a 'vitality' model which is used to integrate multiple stressors (unfavourable temperature, food shortage, infectious agents and pesticides) for each individual bee. The vitality of each model bee interacts with all the four stressors". The team for this work includes, among others, two professionals with recognized experience and current prominence in global beekeeping, such as Fani Hatjina, from the SWRI Beekeeping Department, a private and non-profit organization in Greece, president of the Bee Health Commission of Apimondia and the board of directors of IBRA; and Noa Simon-Delso, coordinator of BeeLife European Beekeeping, Belgium.

"The environment in which the colony is modelled is implemented as a dynamic landscape simulation within ALMaSS (the Animal Landscape and Man Simulation System). The ALMaSS landscape model is a spatially and temporally dynamic model which combines land use, detailed farm practices, weather, crop growth, semi-natural habitats, and flower resource models". This work Formal Description of the Model was also signed in 2022 by Annet Bruun Jensen of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

By combining both models, ApisRAM provides a framework for virtual experiments, for example pesticide applications, designed to explore the effects of different combined stressors on honey bee colonies under various environmental and human factors.

EFSA moved forward to ApisRAM version 3 publishing it last December 13th with describing its environmental scenarios. This definition of scenarios is closely related to the AlMaSS tool, already mentioned, which operates in landscape windows of 100 km2 (10x10 km) with information on climate, crop phenology and natural vegetation, land use and landscape structure. "The scenarios are composed of a baseline scenario, defining the ecological quality, and the case scenarios, where pesticide application related aspects as defined in the GAP are given. The ecological quality is defined in typical 'landscape windows' and classified along two dimensions, i.e. the floral resource diversity, as a proxy for the number of floral plant species, and the floral resource quality, as a proxy for the amount of nectar, sugar, and pollen produced by the respective plants".

Baseline scenario and case scenario
EFSA explains that "A baseline scenario provides the baseline conditions for colony status (baseline values for the presence of Varroa, Nosema, Deformed Wing Virus, Acute Bee Paralysis Virus and Sacbrood Virus and their corresponding infestation levels, each in the absence of clinical sign of disease) and environmental attributes (a gradient of environmental settings from most to least favourable conditions, in terms of diversity and quality of resources for foraging activity and ultimately for colony development)".
For its part, "A case scenario is a baseline scenario with the addition of pesticides in different proportions (exposure modification factors), for comparison with a control scenario (baseline without pesticide) and, ideally, a scenario with a toxic standard".

ApisRAM and APIMONDIA 2025
Since Aarhus University is Danish and the next International Beekeeping Congress -Apimondia 2025- to be held in the Scandinavian countries will be based in Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, it will be a good moment to learn about, promote and celebrate the advances of this model of pesticide risk assessment that, as of the publication of the "Environmental scenarios for ApisRAM version 3, a honey bee colony model for pesticide risk assessment" (EFSA, December 13, 2023) and according to the schedule foreseen by EFSA "Version 3 is expected by 2025 to comply with the regulatory risk assessment of chemical pesticides for single substance/single product as foreseen under Regulation EC No 1107/2009, while version 4 is expected by 2027 and goes beyond the current regulation, incorporating invasive species and chemical mixtures".
Fernando Esteban

Information generated by "Espacio Apícola" the Argentine Beekeepers' Magazine